Trucking exec encourages industry collaboration

Staff Report
Published Jan. 29, 2014

NEW ORLEANS — A failure to communicate between dealers and fleet managers threatens to impede trucking industry growth, said Philip Byrd, a S.C. trucking executive and chairman of American Trucking Associations.

Byrd, president and CEO of Charleston, S.C.-based Bulldog Hiway Express, offered his remarks at this week’s annual convention of the American Truck Dealers, a division of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Philip Byrd, president and CEO of Bulldog Hiway Express and chairman of American Trucking Associations
Philip Byrd, president and CEO of Bulldog Hiway Express and chairman of American Trucking Associations
Byrd called on dealers to be more responsive when addressing concerns about pricing, warranties and turnaround time for repair work.

In turn, Byrd called on fleet managers and original equipment manufacturers to incorporate technical advances in both fleet management and vehicles in their products. Examples of technology advances include real-time driver-behavior monitors and lane-departure warning signals, Byrd said.

Byrd said an optimistic outlook for the economy means more business for carriers as well as truck dealers and manufacturers.

“The nation’s aging fleet will need modernizing, and that will mean selling more trucks on your part,” Byrd told the dealers.

The associations’ For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.6% in December, after surging 4.7% in November. The seasonally adjusted increase pushed the index 6.2% higher for the full year, making it the index’s best year since 1998.

“Tonnage ended 2013 on a high note, which fits with many economic indicators as trucking is an excellent reflection of the tangible goods economy,” said Bob Costello, the associations’ chief economist. “The final quarter was the strongest we’ve seen in a couple of years, rising 2.2% from the third quarter and 9.1% from a year earlier.”

Costello reiterated his statement from last month: the tonnage acceleration in the second half of the year is pointing to an economy that is likely stronger than some might think.

“I’m seeing more broad-based gains now. The improvement is not limited to the tank truck and flatbed sectors like earlier in the year,” he said. “With manufacturing and consumer spending picking up, coupled with solid volumes from hydraulic fracturing, I look for tonnage to be good in 2014 as well.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy and right now the forecasts point to a bright future, he said.

Presently, trucks carry 68.5% of tonnage hauled by America’s freight systems, Byrd said. “We project in 2024 trucks will carry 70% of tonnage.”

Founded in 1959, Bulldog Hiway is a for-hire truckload and intermodal carrier with a fleet of 150 tractors and 350 trailers. Byrd is a two-time chairman of the S.C. Trucking Association and has served as chairman of the S.C. Maritime Association and the Charleston Motor Carrier Association.

American Truck Dealers represents about 2,000 medium- and heavy-duty truck dealers.

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